PREVIEW: Luton Town v Plymouth Argyle
Plymouth's season is finally showing signs of flickering life another terrible opening to the campaign which almost mirrors exactly their efforts from last term.
Derek Adams’ side hadn’t managed a victory from their opening 11 games, as it took them until October and AFC Wimbledon’s visit to Home Park to register a three point haul.
They had picked up two draws on home soil, but a 5-1 hammering by Peterborough followed by defeats against Blackpool and Doncaster left them propping up the rest after 10 matches.
A 1-0 win at Bristol City in the Carabao Cup was the only moment of relief during the first few months, as on their travels, they lost four our of five as well, a stalemate at Bristol Rovers the one time they could leave with something to their name.
Argyle’s win over the Dons led to a slight revival of sorts, as although they lost the next two, going down at home once more to Burton, successive victories over Gillingham (3-1) and then a cracking 4-1 triumph at Scunthorpe, made it look like Adams’ side had turned the corner.
However, they were then hammered 5-0 at home by Chelsea U21s in the Checkatrade Trophy, beaten 2-0 by Sunderland in the league too, although did progress in the FA Cup by seeing off Stevenage 1-0.
Another defeat on their travels at Newport County in the Trophy followed in midweek, where Plymouth made 11 changes, as the Pilgrims have picked up a real bout of travel sickness, winning two, drawing two and losing seven out of 11 so far.
Adams defended his reasoning behind wholesale alterations on Tuesday night though, saying: “We were out of the competition and we have to look to what is important to us, and that is Saturday’s game at Luton.
“I’m here to look after Plymouth Argyle Football Club and nothing else, and that’s what I have done.”
Weirdly Arygle, now third bottom, are only slightly worst off than they were this time last year, as another shocking start left them on 14 points at this stage, one better than the 13 they currently have.
However, they went on a truly marvellous run after the turn of the year, with six straight league wins, stretching that run to nine from 11 matches which saw them shoot up the table and almost make the play-offs, eventually finishing just three points and one place short.
They did lose some of that squad in the summer, most notably Sonny Bradley to the Hatters and Oscar Threlkeld, although reinforcements were summoned in the shape of Callum Dyson from Everton, Falkirk’s Peter Grant, Tafari Moore from FC Utrecht and MK Dons’ Scott Wootton.
Team news: Dan Potts is available for the Hatters after his groin injury, while Marek Stech completed 90 minutes in midweek.
Luke Berry (knee) remains out while Danny Hylton sits out the second (or third!) game of his suspension.
For Argyle, Ryan Taylor is back after an ankle ligament injury, while midfielder Jamie Ness could be in contention, his calf strain not too serious.
Injured trio of Joe Riley (knee), Gary Sawyer (broken foot) and Scott Wootton (thigh) continue to be sidelined though.
Top scorers: Hatters - Danny Hylton, Elliot Lee (5). Argyle – Freddie Ladapo (8).
Milestones: Andrew Shinnie made his 50th appearance for the club during last week’s 2-0 win over Wycombe. His goal in the first half means he has now netted six times for the Hatters in his two spells since arriving from Birmingham.
Man in the middle: Darren England - taken 16 games this term, mainly in the Championship with 56 yellows and two reds.
Has officiated one Luton match, the 1-1 draw at Wycombe, giving the hosts two penalties in the game.
Also had the whistle for the 1-0 win at Barnet in the 2016-17 season, plus coincidentally the 2-0 triumph over the Bees during the campaign before.
In charge: Derek Adams - 43-year-old who spent almost all of his playing career north of the border, at the likes of Aberdeen, Ross County, Motherwell, Ayr United and Livingston, having a brief stay with Burnley.
Became player-coach at Ross County in November 2006, named player-manager the following year.
Led the club to the Scottish Second Division Championship in 2008 and also the Scottish Cup final in 2010, before leaving to become Hibernian assistant manager.
Returned to Ross County in May 2011 as manager, guiding the side to the Scottish Premier Division, eventually leaving the club in August 2014.
Named Plymouth boss in June 2015 and is now the 12th longest serving manager in English football after Neal Ardley left AFC Wimbledon this week.
View from the opposition: Captain David Fox talking to the club’s official website: “Luton are a good team, especially at home.
“They came up and have kept that momentum going, which a lot of teams that get promoted do.
“We know it is going to be tough, its up to us to repay the manager for giving us Tuesday off and make sure we are fit, fresh and ready to go on Saturday because that was the whole reason behind it.”
Friendly faces: Sonny Bradley, centre half made almost 100 appearance for Plymouth after joining them from Crawley in the summer of 2016.
Netted 11 goals as well, before moving to Luton in July and has played 18 times for his new club so far.
Striker Jake Jervis racked up 127 game for the Pilgrims after joining from Ross County in June 2015.
Scored 31 goals in his two and a half year stay, joining Luton for an undisclosed fee in January.
Made 13 appearances for the Hatters, although is yet to score, while moved on loan to AFC Wimbledon in August, playing 13 times, yet to find the net for the Dons though.
Argyle keeper Matt Macey joined Argyle on loan from Arsenal in the summer and has started all 17 league games since arriving, with 20 appearances in total.
Played 13 times for the Hatters when borrowed from the Gunners in the 2016-17 campaign after Christian Walton was recalled by Brighton, although that stay was cut short, as he too was summoned back by his parent club.
Played for both: Goalkeeper Milija Aleksic had spells at both the Hatters and Plymouth after starting his career with Port Vale.
Joined Argyle in 1973 as he made 32 appearances, while being loaned to Oxford and Ipswich.
Headed to Luton in November 1976, signed by David Pleat, staying for three years and making over 50 appearances.
Was snapped up by Spurs for a fee of £100,000 though in 1979 as he featured 32 times, earning an FA Cup winners medal, losing his placae at White Hart Lane to a certain Ray Clemence.
Returned to Town on loan in 1982 for a brief stint, meaning made 92 appearances in total, before dropping into non-league to play for Barnet.
Emigrated to South Africa and played for Wits University, before his death aged 61 in October 2012.
One to watch: Freddie Ladapo – Striker signed for Plymouth in the summer from Southend and is starting to really find his feet at Home Park.
Took five games to get off the mark, and had just two in his opening 13 appearances, before scoring the winner over AFC Wimbledon in October.
That started a run of six goals in five games, including braces against Burton and Gillingham, enough to win him the Sky Bet League One player of the month for October.
Despite being only 25, already can count a host of clubs a his CV, with spells at Shrewsbury, Oldham, Crystal Palace and Colchester to name a few, making one Premier League appearance for the Eagles, coming on a second half substitute during a 4-0 defeat at Manchester United in September 2017.
We’ve got form: Luton and Plymouth have been more than regular adversaries over the years, with matches starting out in the Southern League way back in 1904. Since then, the sides have met at Kenilworth Road a total of 49 times, with Hatters just about on top winning 17, drawing 20 and losing 12, scoring 72 and conceding 64.
The biggest triumph was a 5-2 success in 1930 thanks to Andy Rennie’s hat-trick and a double from Jimmy Yardley.
Argyle have had the upper hand in recent times though, Luton only enjoying one victory in their last seven matches since March 2004, that a 2-0 Carling CUp success in 2008 with strikes from Rossi Jarvis and Tristan Plummer, Argyle winning three and the other three draws.
In fact, Hatters are without a league victory on home soil over their opponents since February 2003, Tony Thorpe’s 50th minute strike settling a Division Two contest.
Last time out: Luton were held to a 1-1 draw at Kenilworth Road in a League Two contest in February 2017.
Facing an Argyle team that included Sonny Bradley, with Jake Jervis on the bench, the Hatters were in front through Danny Hylton’s eighth minute goal.
Craig Tanner beat now Pilgrims keeper Matt Macey for an equaliser midway through the first half though as the spoils were shared.
Hatters: Matt Macey, James Justin, Jack Senior (Jack Marriott 79), Scott Cuthbert, Alan Sheehan, Glen Rea, Jonathan Smith (Luke Gambin 62), Jordan Cook, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Danny Hylton, Isaac Vassell (Ollie Palmer 62).
Subs not used: Stuart Moore, Jonny Mullins, Jake Gray, Lawson D’Ath.
Referee: Darren Drysdale.